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Taking Charge (Spring 2010 Trust Magazine article)

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The Pew Charitable Trusts began work to protect Americans from the credit cards' most perilous provisions. That effort culminated in May of 2009 with the passage and presidential signature of the first major credit-card reform ever.


After U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill's father died, her mother stumbled into money problems and ran up a pile of credit card bills. By the time Sen. McCaskill and her sisters intervened, the card company had slapped their mother with late fees and penalty interest rates, which bloated her debt.

Even after her daughters paid off the charges, Betty Anne McCaskill kept receiving “convenience checks,” encouraging her to spend more on credit. “It's like sending a six-pack of beer to somebody who is on their 30th day of sobriety and saying, ‘Why don't you just have another drink?'” Sen. McCaskill said at a 2007 Senate hearing.

The same spring that Sen. McCaskill, who represents Missouri, railed against credit card issuers, The Pew Charitable Trusts began work to protect vulnerable folks like Betty Anne McCaskill and all Americans from the cards' most perilous provisions. That effort culminated in May of 2009 with the passage and presidential signature of the first major credit-card reform ever. The new law bans a variety of controversial practices and limits companies' ability to raise interest rates on existing balances.

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Nicolle Grayson